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Wick's Review

Created Oct 31, 2013 01:33PM PST • Edited Dec 01, 2019 04:37AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Sweet soul music forms the soundtrack of this infectiously enjoyable Australian musical-comedy. Telling the truthy tale of four black girls from Down Under who performed American soul music for U.S. GIs and Marines in Vietnam, The Sapphires tickles, touches and torches in equal measure.

    Black girls from Australia? Yes, Aborigines from the hinterlands, country girls raised on their own folk music and American Country music alike. The movie shows how these indigenous people were not merely discriminated against, their fair-skinned children were taken from them to live with white folks in the city.

    An improbably joyous movie erupts from this heavy background and the equally heavy tragedy of the Vietnam War, as an Irish musician molds the singing sisters into a girl group that is supreme, if not actually The Supremes. It helps that they perform several stellar sixties songs, including Land of 1000 Dances, Motown’s Who’s Lovin’ You and the Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go. Sung by Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy and her three seductive backups, it’s can’t miss music.

    When Mauboy finally exercises her soulfully sinuous pipes and shimmies in her little blue dress, I let out a “Damn, Beyonce quality!”

    The Sapphires successfully mixes a feel good story with its rocking music, leavening that sugar with the unfortunate circumstances of Australia’s native people and the benighted Vietnam War. Cinematic alchemy occurs, resulting in a jewel of a movie.

  3. Great 4.0

    The Sapphires shines because of the four gals who play them. They have considerable familial chemistry together and more importantly are a terrific singing group.

    • Jessica Mauboy is the clear star, the Diana Ross of these Aussie Supremes. Mauboy is an Australian Idol runner-up and chart-topping pop star. Wow, she brings it.
    • Miranda Tapsell plays her impetuous older sister. Besides being a deft comedic actress, she too has great pipes and a great look.
    • Deborah Mailman plays the Mama Bear oldest sister, grounding the entire production. Oh yeah, she’s got a lovely voice to boot.
    • Shari Sebbens plays their white-looking cousin. She too has great pipes and a very pretty look.

    Chris O’Dowd plays the drunken piano player who “discovers” them and becomes their show biz partner.

    African-Americans Tory Kittles and Don Battee play a GI boyfriend and nightclub owner respectively.

    Finally, their Aboriginal family are endearingly played, but by whom it’s hard to determine from the credits.

  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Great 4.0

    The Sapphires ironically opens to Credence Clearwater Revival at their heaviest. While the song is Run Through the Jungle, several little girls run through a beautiful field of yellow flowers. The film’s dichotomy is thus set: American music informing an Aboriginal story. The songs bring tears of joy, starting with the Country and folk, all the way through the Soul and R&B.

    An Aboriginal production behind the camera as much as in front, director Wayne Blair is an Indigenous Australian and writer Tony Briggs is the son of one of the real Sapphires. Talk about keeping it real by keeping it in the family.

    Finally, the scene in an Army field hospital tent is as soulful as could be, elevating Blair and Briggs’ film to true greatness.

  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Great 4.0

    “The Marines will make it their sole task to look over the girls,” declares the band’s manager. Un, huh, I’ll bet they will.

    More substantively, the script delivers a School of Rock quality explanation about how country and soul music differ.

    Country and western music is about loss. Soul music is also about loss. But the difference is in country and western music, they’ve lost, they’ve given up and they are just all whining about it. In soul music they are struggling to get it back, they haven’t given up.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    The soundtrack slays.

    First it seduces with some painfully sweet Country and folk songs, including a simply beautiful rendition of Merle Haggard’s Today I Started Loving You Again.

    The soul train comes later.

    • Land of a Thousand Dances “Na, na, na, na!”
    • I Heard It Through the Grapevine
    • What a Man is smoking! Check out the nearby video for proof.
    • I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
    • Smoky Robinson’s Who’s Lovin’ You
    • The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There
  12. Visuals Great 4.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.2

    Fierce violence occurs when The Sapphires travel through the Vietnam War zone, though less than you might imagine. Meanwhile these fetching songstresses attract their fair share of eager male attention. Finally and perhaps most distressingly, Sixties-era bigotry is voiced on several occasions.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 2.5
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.4
  18. Glib 1.2

    Writer Tony Briggs somewhat fictionalized the story of his mother and aunts, aka the real Sapphires. Wikipedia claims to have the true story.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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